School Garden Lessons, Activities and Curricula

Jerusalem Artichoke

When I first started working in school gardens my initial focus was on getting kids to eat healthy. To that end I would plant as many varieties as possible knowing that young gardeners love anything they plant and nurture themselves.

As school gardens got more popular however, more and more teachers were asking how to incorporate school gardens into their everyday lesson plans. Learning to eat healthy was just one of many topics that needed to be covered. Peruse the websites below and you will find activities and lesson plans that also relate to art, science, math, and social studies.  Also please note many are broken down by grade.

1) School Garden Lessons from GrannysGarden.org

2) School Garden Curricula Grades K-12 from National Environmental Education Foundation

3) 15 Lessons for 1, 2 and 3 graders (72 page pdf)

4) 15 Lessons for 4 and 5 graders (61 page pdf)

5) Curriculum ideas from California School Garden Network

6) Agriculture in the Classroom – Lesson Plans from USDA

7) School Garden Lesson Plans from Virginia Tech Horticulture Department

8) Nature’s Partner’s – Pollinator, Plants, and You (Comprehensive pollinator curriculum for grades 3-6)

9) School garden activities arranged by season

10) Lesson Plans and Curricula – Garden ABCs

Clearing, Harvesting and Seed-Saving


If you’re lucky enough to have a year round garden like Hamilton High School first week of school you’re still harvesting. The local food bank has been getting donations of tomatoes, squash, eggplant, basil, peppers, and okra.

At West Hollywood Elementary School the garden is not open year-round so during the first week of school students clear all the weeds and expired annuals and save seeds from artichokes (beneath the tuft of hair), cilantro (not shown), fennel and marigolds.

Next week we’ll add amendments, turn the soil and lay out our rows. Stayed tuned.

Ten School Garden Activities for September

Welcome back teachers and students.

September in a school garden is one of our busiest times. We need to get started quickly to insure a harvest before the long winter break.

For those without a school garden the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has written an extensive online manual, Setting up and Running a School Garden.

For those returning to an existing garden there is much to do. Preparing the beds for another season of seed sowing and transplanting is probably the hardest job physically we will have all year. Organizing a garden day with other parents, teachers, students and volunteers is something you may want to consider.

The following ten activities should be done (more or less) in order:

1) Discuss garden rules and tool safety. For those unfamiliar with garden rules these are the basics: a) No running in the garden; b) No walking in the beds; c) No running with tools; d) Do not carry or swing tools on your back; e) Do not bring hands tools over your shoulder; f) Walk with the tool by your side, blade down; g) Return all tools to their proper place immediately after use; h) Do not leave tools in the garden; i) Anyone not following these rules does not get to work in the garden.

2) Search for dried flower heads and seed pods in which to save seed (i.e. sunflowers, marigolds, lettuce, fennel, cilantro, beans, etc).

3) Clear beds of everything other than perennials (i.e. herbs and strawberries).

4) Collect all organic refuse and compost it. For more information on composting see The School Garden Resource page at the California Waste Management Board and the 8-page pdf, Guide to Home Composting from the Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

5) Add amendments (i.e. organic compost, aged manure) to existing soil, mix well and turn soil top to bottom and bottom to top. See video, How to Amend a Raised Bed.

6) Review the pdf, Vegetable Family Chart. At this time of year we will be planting cool-weather crops. There’s actually more to choose from now than there is in the spring.

7) Read seed packets for specific information regarding height and row spacing. (Taller plants go in the rear so as not to cast shadows on smaller plants.) See How to Read a Seed Packet.

8) Plan and design garden space.

9) Lay out rows. (Ideally, rows should be perpendicular to the arc of the sun.)

10) Sow seeds and/or transplant seedlings. Set up irrigation schedule.

How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers

Creating a school garden requires various skills of which gardening is merely one. Authors Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle of the recently published, How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers, understand this well.

These are the ten chapters covering such diverse topics as: design, budgeting, organizing, fundraising and curriculum:

1. Why School Gardens
2. Laying the Groundwork
3. Getting the Most From Your Site
4. Groundbreaking, Budgeting, and Fundraising
5. Developing your School Garden Program
6. A Healthy Outdoor Classroom
7. Tricks of the Trade
8. Planting, Harvesting and Cooking in the Garden
9. Year-Round Garden Lessons and Activities
10. A Decade in a School Garden: Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, San Francisco, CA

Extras include school garden kid-friendly recipes, example of state content standards and a comprehensive resource guide.

Bottom line – How to Grow a School Garden is one of the best how-to books about school gardening ever published. Add it to your summer reading and get growing in the fall.

Click here to purchase your copy today.

NEA’s Green Across America School Garden Funding – 7/30 deadline

Engage and inspire your K-12 students to increase sustainable, earth-friendly behavior in their neighborhoods and communities.

NEA’s Green Across America grants of up to $1,000 are available to help you implement your innovative education program, activity, lesson or event to excite students about going green, caring for the earth and creating a sustainable future.

The Green Across America Program is sponsored by Target, which proudly supports K-12 schools through innovative giving programs.

How to Apply
Click the “Apply Now” link to begin the online application.

The application must be completed in one session. You will not be able to save your responses and return to them later.

If you would like to prepare your application responses before beginning the online application, you can download a Grant Application Worksheet (.doc, 386K). The worksheet contains all the application questions to help you plan and write your responses. Please note: Only online grant applications will be accepted for this program.

All applications must be submitted online by July 30, 2010.
Please see the complete rules for details.

LAUSD School Gardens Featured in CNN Video

Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the nation, and now they are working toward becoming the greenest.

Parkview School Garden Video

This video was made by fourth grade students in Marca Babcock’s class at Parkview Elementary School, Bellingham,Washington. Over the summer they harvest food for their local food bank.